Statistics are neither Lies nor Damned Lies!
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
Imagine the news headlines that today’s media might run in covering this quote popularized by Mark Twain, (originally attributed to Benjamin Disraeli.)
- “Twain Cleverly Skewers the Twisting of Statistics”
- “Twain Calls Statistics the Worst of All Lies”
- “Man Hiding Behind False Name Claims Some Lies are not Lies”
- “Twain Declining Mentally: Makes Logically Inconsistent Statement”
We’re all familiar with how statistics can be interpreted in various ways to make very different claims. We’re also familiar with how news headlines can be written to generate the most interest, or may indicate a bias or (gasp!) even an agenda by the author or publisher. I was reminded of this recently when looking at a series of headlines from Google News about Apple’s performance in the American Customer Satisfaction Index for Personal Computers.